Posts for tag: oral surgery
One of the most common and anguish-filled birth defects is a cleft lip or palate (roof of the mouth). Not only do clefts disrupt the normality of a child’s facial appearance, they can also lead to problems with chewing, speech and the long-term health of teeth and gums.
A cleft is a tissue gap that occurs during fetal development, usually in the first trimester, in which parts of the baby’s face fail to unite. Why this occurs is not fully understood, but vitamin imbalances in the mother, exposure to radiation or other toxic environments, or infections are all believed to play a role.
Facial clefts are classified as either incomplete, in which there is some but not full tissue fusion, or complete, with no fusion at all. A cleft can be unilateral, affecting only one side of the face, or bi-lateral, affecting both sides. During infancy a cleft can adversely affect a child’s ability to nurse, and it sometimes disrupts breathing. As the child grows, speech patterns may be severely disrupted and their teeth and bite may not develop properly.
Fortunately, there have been dramatic advances in cleft repair over the past sixty years. It’s actually a process that can span a child’s entire developmental years and involve the expertise of a number of surgical and dental specialists. For a cleft lip, the initial surgical repair to realign and join the separated tissues usually occurs around three to six months of age; repair of a cleft palate (where the gap extends into the roof of the mouth) between 6 and 12 months.
Subsequent procedures may be needed in later years to refine earlier results and to accommodate the mouth’s continuing growth. At some point the treatment focus shifts to cosmetic enhancement (which can include implants, crown or bridgework) and periodontal health, to ensure gum tissues that support teeth and gums aren’t compromised by the effects of the cleft or its treatment.
At the end of this long process, something of a miracle may seem to occur: a young person’s once disfigured mouth transforms into a beautiful smile. It’s a chance for them to gain a normal life — and a new lease on physical, emotional and oral health.
The final emergence of permanent teeth in late adolescence marks the end of a long process beginning in the womb with the formation of our primary or “baby” teeth. Permanent teeth form in a similar way as buds high in the jaw, continuing to grow until the primary teeth ahead of them fall away. The crowns of the new adult teeth eventually break through the gum tissue and emerge (erupt) into view.
At least, that’s normally what should happen; sometimes, though, a tooth may only erupt partially or not at all, a condition known as impaction. The crown remains partially or fully submerged below the gum line, causing the tooth to press against other teeth, potentially damaging them. It can also make periodontal (gum) tissues adjacent to the area more susceptible to disease. Wisdom teeth are especially prone to this kind of impaction, to the extent they’re often surgically removed (extracted) to avoid future problems to adjacent teeth or the bite.
Upper canines (the “eye teeth” normally located directly below the eyes) are also subject to impaction. But because of their highly visible position, extracting them could have an adverse impact on the patient’s smile. In this case, we often attempt instead to expose and ultimately save the tooth.
Before taking any action, however, an orthodontic examination is conducted first to pinpoint the exact position of the impacted tooth and determine how that position might affect moving teeth into a more desired alignment. If we find the impacted canine is in a workable position, the next step is to surgically uncover the tooth from the gum tissue (a minor procedure usually performed by an oral surgeon or periodontist). Once exposed, an orthodontic bracket with a small attached gold chain is bonded to the tooth. The gums are then sutured back into place with the chain exposed and allowed to heal.
At some future point an orthodontist will attach the chain to orthodontic hardware that will pull the impacted tooth into proper position over several months. As a result, the upper canine becomes “un-impacted”; the dangers to surrounding teeth and tissues are also reduced. And, just as important, we can preserve the tooth and with orthodontics achieve an attractive, normal smile.
If you would like more information on the effects and treatment of impacted teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Exposing Impacted Canines.”
The proliferation of drugs to treat all manner of diseases and conditions has heightened concerns not only about general side effects, but also how a particular drug may affect treatments for other conditions. There are indications, for example, that drugs classified as blood thinners could cause complications for patients undergoing oral surgery.
Blood thinners like Warfarin are typically prescribed to patients with artificial heart valves or who are at significant risk for stroke, heart attack, or the formation of clots that could potentially damage the heart and lungs. The drug reduces the coagulation (clotting) mechanism in blood; aspirin taken regularly should also be considered a blood thinner.
As with any invasive procedure, blood thinners can complicate oral surgery. Blood doesn’t clot normally and so bleeding during a procedure is more difficult to stop. This doesn’t necessarily mean the surgery can’t be performed. For one thing, many oral procedures like tooth removal involve little trauma to tissues and bleeding in the hands of a careful and experienced surgeon. The surgeon can also use hemostatic agents during surgery that will stabilize blood clotting, as well as suturing the incision in such a way as to reduce bleeding from surface capillaries. In the case of a tooth extraction, a bone graft placed within the empty socket not only reduces bone loss from a missing tooth, but can also enhance bleeding control.
In consultation with your medical doctor, it’s also possible to temporarily stop or reduce your medication dosage in anticipation of a pending oral surgery. While it may not be safe to stop the drug altogether, a reduced dosage can ease the anti-coagulant effect and reduce any complications from bleeding that might occur during the surgery. You can then resume normal dosage soon after the procedure.
During your pre-op examination, it’s important to let your surgeon know about any drugs you are currently taking, including over-the-counter drugs like aspirin. The oral surgeon will then be able to take the necessary steps, including working with your medical doctor, to ensure your surgical procedure is safe and uneventful.
If you would like more information on oral surgery precautions while taking blood thinners and other medication, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Surgery & Blood Thinners.”